The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga celebrated Juneteenth on Friday, June 16, with an on-campus event at Lupton Hall.
Sponsored by the UTC Office of Multicultural Affairs and the UTC Black Faculty and Staff Association, the event brought together faculty, staff and students from across campus—including students participating in several UTC summer experiences.
More than 100 people came to the event, which included food, games and live music from the OGYA World Music Band.
“I think it shows that the campus, our community and all of our stakeholders support the University’s efforts. They are excited to be part of a program that celebrates culture, that celebrates freedom, that celebrates a long-standing tradition of legacy and trailblazers,” said Multicultural Affairs Assistant Director Christopher Stokes.
“And I think it shows that our campus really embraces the opportunity to celebrate one another and come together as a family. We had so many supporters asking us how they could be a part of the volunteering space to be part of the event.”
Sherese Williams, president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association and Honors College director of operations and admissions, said it was great “seeing the campus come alive with the large turnout.”
“This is about us coming together, being able to dance and have fun, but the bigger part is bringing us all into this space and being able to talk and be free and have a little moment to just sort of dialogue with your colleagues who you might not see very often,” Williams said. “It really has the feeling of a family reunion.”
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and recognizes the day when news of their freedom reached the state of Texas on June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and publicly announced General Order No. 3 proclaiming the freedom of all enslaved people in the state.
That announcement came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln declared that all enslaved people in Confederate-held territories were to be set free. Due to the limited presence of Union troops in Texas during the Civil War, enforcement of the proclamation was slow, and news of emancipation was delayed.
Juneteenth has since become an important day of remembrance and celebration, serving as a symbol of freedom and progress while acknowledging the struggles and resilience of those who endured the institution of slavery. In 2021, Juneteenth was designated as a federal holiday, making it an official day of observance throughout the entire country.
UTC will be closed on Monday, June 19. The State of Tennessee officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time this year. As a result of the state recognition, the UT System now observes Juneteenth as a systemwide paid holiday, and all offices, campuses and institutes are closed.
Stokes noted that UTC is one of the co-sponsors of the Juneteenth Freedom Celebration, taking place from noon-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on M.L. King Boulevard. The event will include free museum admission, live music, food trucks, and art and merchandise vendors.
“To see how we can take this fellowship here on campus—where it’s special and intimate and small—and extend that to the entire city of Chattanooga is something I’m really proud of,” he said.